Democracy is shining in the dark

December 31, 2011

Democracy is shining in the dark

by Bridget

COMMENT Largely driven by ordinary citizens, often connected through the social media, Southeast Asia is experiencing important and substantive political change.

In this year of the Arab Spring, attention has centered on developments in the Middle East. With street protests and elections, amidst violence, there is no question that the region has experienced a profound political upheaval.

Yet, 2011 has been extremely significant in Southeast Asia as well. The ripples of change are here. Largely driven by ordinary citizens, often connected through the social media, Southeast Asia is experiencing important and substantive political change, with the balance clearly in favour of greater empowerment of citizens, human dignity and promise.

Let me begin with the one that Malaysians themselves know well – the increased political awakenings of citizens.

bersih 2 rally guy fawkes mask 090711It centers on July’s Bersih 2.0 and more recently the demands for academic freedom by university students and graduates, but one can go back to the Sarawak state election in April to see a greater sense of political awareness and appreciation of the impact every individual can have on bringing about a better government.

Personally, I will never forget the energy at the political rallies in Miri, where young and old came out in the rain to listen and hope for a better future. It is important for all the political parties across the spectrum to remember that people stand in the rain not to support the parties, but the potential of better governance they represent.

The trend now is moving outside of political parties towards civil society and individuals, taking the issues directly into the hands of ordinary people. This broadening of political participation is healthy, in that is allows for more diversity of views.

This political awakening is happening across Southeast Asia – in Singapore, where a record number of citizens attended political rallies and voted, in Thailand, where local communities banded together to address the challenges of the floods, and in Indonesia, where the anti-corruption drive and calls for good governance are being led through whistle blowing and robust online discussions.

Even when poor decisions are being made by leaders or politicians are providing bald-faced denials, the citizens are exposing these and fighting back.

Consider the saga of housewife Prita Mulyasari of Tangerang, Indonesia. When she complained about the hospital service and sent the e-mail to 20 of her friends, the hospital sued her and she was fined. She fought back, winning an acquittal in civil court in 2009, and earning the support of thousands of Facebook fans.

This July Indonesia’s Supreme Court overturned the decision saying that she was guilty of defamation and now the outrage has deepened. Her family is calling for a judicial review, with the support of an angry public frustrated with the inequalities in court decisions and corruption within the judiciary.

Fights like Prita’s are never easy. Those who stand up to power often face alienation and threats, especially women. The rallying around what is right is increasingly common and gaining ground, as the public across Southeast Asia are speaking up.

Political openings in authoritarian outposts

There are now more places in the region where people are standing tall. This year will be remembered as that change occurred in the most unexpected places – the more authoritarian political systems.

In May, Singapore’s general election became a watershed, exposing the frustrations with elitist governance in the island state.

Singapore People's Party's (SPP) election campaign rally at Bishan Stadium 1This human wave calling for inclusion and fairness extended to the presidential polls in August, where the PAP’s chosen candidate for President Tony Tan only squeaked through with less than 1% of the vote.

Months later, the system remains in shock, still assessing how to win back the support and at the same time operate in a new political environment where the public has a sense of its own power. Once the power of the people is let out of the bottle, it is very hard indeed to put it back into constraints.

The PAP is working hard to adjust in contrast to how UMNO responded after 2008. Yet, one-party dominant political systems face real challenges incorporating new voices and embracing reform, especially when the resistance inside the system is entrenched.

Singapore’s political evolution is important as it has served as a global model. It is especially important for Malaysia, given its historical links to the island republic.

In both countries, the tests for the future lie within the dominant parties and whether the leadership of both countries is genuinely willing to bring about reform, not just promises and deliver half-hearted and flawed measures. It is important to laud the efforts of reform, but carefully scrutinise the implementation.

Nowhere is the importance of scrutiny more relevant than in Burma (Myanmar). What a political year that country has experienced. Since the November 2010 election results were announced early this year, the country has undergone political liberalisation led by the new civilian leadership.

This top-down transition is still in its early days, yet there are distinguishing groups of soft-liners and hardliners in the system. Right now the soft-liners – those advocating for genuine inclusion of the opposition, pushing for economic reform and better governance – are leading the charge.

burma aung san suu kyiToday one can find almost revolutionary changes on the ground with pictures of Aung San Sui Kyi on the streets of Rangoon, a much more open media and even a protest law that is more liberal than Malaysia’s.

While many activists, especially ethnic minority leaders and what is known as Generation 88 leaders (those associated with the student movement opposing military rule in 1988) are still in jail, many others have been released and the 40 or so seats to be contested in by-elections in 2012 will include the National League for Democracy, bringing it into parliament.

Interestingly the country’s legislature has become a place for substantive discussion of policy and problems, as all sides seem – at least for now – to be focused on bringing the country forward. The resistance is strong, and challenges, especially in the economic realm are high – yet here too, in one of the region’s darkest democratic corners, there is light.

Increased contestation over basic freedoms

This year has taught us – from the Middle East to Southeast Asia – that political change is possible in the more authoritarian outposts. Yet, in the focus on the unexpected, we sometimes overlook the ordinary. There are two realms where serious contestation over basic rights is evolving with great intensity in Southeast Asia.

The first is in an issue many Malaysians know well – religious freedom. Despite the talk of 1Malaysia, the fact is that religious minorities in the country feel a deepening sense of anxiety. What is forgotten here is that many individuals in the religious majority feel a similar sense of concern.

The problem here – as it is elsewhere in the region – is multifaceted, from the over-politicisation of issues and a lack of trusted political leadership to deep-seated racism and more. What is important is to appreciate how much healthy dialogue now exists.

The media tends to focus on the problems, the bogus police reports against religious leaders for speaking frankly, rather than on the quiet sanity and respectful interactions that are growing.

Between and among faiths there is considerable respectful discussion as the quiet majority embraces the ridiculousness of the Obedient Wives Club.

Interfaith understanding is deepening, as with a more robust discussion within faiths on issues. This is part of the more open political space filled by ordinary citizens, engaged in discussions and genuinely motivated by our common humanity.

Religious freedom issues are also being contested and engaged elsewhere in Southeast Asia. This year saw a religious crackdown in the Hmong in Vietnam, further marginalisation of religious minorities and attacks on religious institutions in Indonesia and religious violence in Timor Leste between groups often through gangs.

Yet, simultaneously, for every crackdown or attack, there are thousands of discussions and shared knowledge as solidarity across the faiths remains the mode of the majority.

Minorities are facing another troubling issue, however. It involves land. There is a region-wide crisis evolving over land rights, from Cambodia and Vietnam to Timor Leste and Burma.

Land grabbing is occurring unchecked throughout the region, often with impunity and dire consequences for those lacking the political connections to hold onto their homes.

Consider the case of Boeung Kak Lake in central Phnom Penh where over 3,000 people were pushed aside for a “new development ” despite having land titles. There has been an ongoing battle through the courts and on the streets to stop the evictions.

Residents won a court victory in August, recognising their titles, but the struggle continues. Many more cases of land grabbing are going unnoticed, as often those who are affected lack the resources to fight.

Now there is more international attention and support of this issue through civil society, as steps are being taken to strengthen laws and improve access to information. Protests against injustices such as these are having an impact, admittedly with high costs for those involved.

Inequality firmly on the agenda

This year more attention is placed on the concerns of the marginalised. The Occupy Wall Street movement has had an international dimension.

Whether it has been in the budget programmes or in the human rights reports on migrant labor, an appreciation of those outside, those left behind by development, is increasing permeating into the broader public psyche. Inequality has squarely been on the public agenda in 2011.

While the policy solutions and approaches have yet to fully evolve, getting to be part of the agenda is an important first step.

Democratic openings require inclusion of all, especially those who have the least. You judge the vibrancy of a democratic system by looking at the conditions faced by those on the political periphery, not those in the center.

As we look toward the future, to a year that will indeed be historic in Malaysia given the upcoming 2012 polls and increased levels of political engagement, taking stock of the trends in 2011 allows us to move forward constructively.

This year has been a good one for democracy in the region, and the trends of empowerment point to future success, despite the obstacles. Let’s celebrate the successes of 2011, especially acknowledging the bravery of individuals, and welcome hope for 2012.

DR BRIDGET WELSH is associate professor of political science at Singapore Management University and she can be reached at

Welcome Year of the Water Dragon

December 31, 2011

Welcome  Year of the Water Dragon 2012

Happy New Year to All Malaysians and our Friends around the World. May you be blessed with Good Health, Prosperity and Happiness in the Year 2012. 2011 will recede into history and it will be up to our historians to decide its significance for the future generation.

Time Magazine made 2011 the Year of the Protestor, dedicated to the men and women on Arab Street and elsewhere including our Bersih 2.0 July 9, 2011 rally. Dato Ambiga, the friendly face of the Bersih movement, was voted the Person of the Year by a popular web-paper FreeMalaysiaToday.

In honoring her, lest we forget,  we must pay tribute to the hardworking people of Malaysia who continue to cope with the challenges of making a living amidst rising prices of basic necessities and rampant corruption.

We like to think that 2012 will be a year of hope for our country. Let us remain united despite efforts of extreme elements among us to create religious and racial tensions. If we give in to these elements within our ranks, we will destroy everything we struggled hard to build over a few generations.

To all the politicians, those in Government and in the Opposition, we wish to say that we will hold you to high standards of public accountability for your policies, programmes, and actions. Serve the rakyat, and not yourself. Most of us have had enough of corruption and abuse of power and would like to you change your ways, or face rejection in the next elections.

Let us now relax and welcome 2012 with some lively music from very exciting entertainers. Here is the Latin beat again for you.–Dr. Kamsiah and Din Merican

Sade–Smooth Operator (in Jazz)





Luis Miguel

Five Resolutions for Aspiring Leaders

December 31, 2011

Five Resolutions for Aspiring Leaders

by John Coleman and Bill George

As the New Year approaches, people will be making resolutions to eat better, exercise more, get that promotion at work, or spend more time with their families. While these are worthwhile goals, we have a more important challenge for young people: Think seriously about your development as a leader.

These are tough times. Many leaders of the baby boomer generation have failed in their responsibilities by placing their self-interest ahead of their organizations. In so doing, they have failed to serve society’s best interests. As a result, more young leaders from Gen X and the Millennials are being asked to take on major leadership responsibilities. To be prepared for the challenges you will face, we propose the following resolutions this New Year’s:

Find a trustworthy mentor: Mentorship is a critical component of your development as a leader. A 2004 study showed that young leaders with mentors were more likely succeed professionally and experience career satisfaction. The essence of effective mentoring is developing a trusting relationship between the mentor and mentee. Identify someone with whom you have a genuine chemistry and who is committed to your development. Although many mentees do not realize it, a sound relationship is a two-way street that benefits both parties — not just the mentee. We suggest looking for mentors whom you admire for their values and character more than their success.

Form a leadership development group: Most of us have little time to reflect on the values and characteristics we want to define us as leaders, the difficulties we’re facing, or the long-term impact we hope to have. Forming a leadership development group can give you the space you need to think deeply about these subjects. Leadership development groups are groups of six to eight people who meet to share their personal challenges and discuss the most important questions in their lives. Find people you can trust, and make a commitment to be one another’s confidential counselors. Meet regularly, and share openly your life stories, crucibles, passions and fears, while offering each other honest feedback.

Volunteer in a civic or service organization: Have you served your community this year? In the Facebook era it’s easy to lose touch with our real-world neighbors. Long hours often cause us to avoid volunteer opportunities. Participating in local organizations — from religious organizations to civic groups — can give you early leadership experiences, provide real connection to your neighbors, and offer opportunities to serve others. It adds a dimension to your life that work can’t, and helps you develop and solidify your character while giving back to the community. You will find your time serving a community organization is highly rewarding while broadening your outlook on people and life.

Work in or travel to one new country: “The world is flat,” as Tom Friedman puts it, so it has never been more important to get global experience. In the future cultural sensitivity will be a more important characteristic for leaders than pure intellectual ability. John’s survey of more than 500 top MBAs found that on average they had worked in four countries prior to entering graduate school and expect to work in five more in the next ten years. Having a global mindset and the ability to collaborate effectively across cultures are essential qualities for aspiring leaders of global organizations.

Finally, ask more questions than you answer: With the high velocity of change in the world, it is impossible to have answers to all the important questions. Much more important is a deep curiosity about the world and the ability to frame the right questions in profound ways. The world’s toughest problems cannot be solved by you or any one organization. Your role will be to bring the right people together to address the challenging issues you raise. Our research demonstrates that the biggest mistakes result from decisions made by people without deep consideration of thoughtful questions.

Young leaders will soon be asked to take on major leadership responsibilities in their organizations and their communities. We believe it is essential that they take steps like these in order to be prepared for the difficult leadership challenges they will face. There’s no better time to get started than the coming year.

John Coleman, HBS ’10, is the author of Passion and Purpose: Stories from the Best and Brightest Young Business Leaders. Bill George is professor of management practice at Harvard Business School and the author of five books, including True North and True North Groups. Follow them on twitter @johnwcoleman and @bill_george.

An Eventful 2011 for Prime Minister

December 31, 2011


An Eventful 2011 for Prime Minister

By Ali Imran Mohd Noordin (12-30-11)

Though 2011 has been a challenging year for Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak, both at the domestic and the global front, it was still an eventful year.

At the domestic front, Najib continued with the transformation programmes while addressing the ever-changing aspirations of the people. He continued with radical changes including abolishing the controversial Internal Security Act (ISA).

At the global front, the economic decay of the West in particular has created new challenges in promoting the national economy. The prospect of an impending global recession prompted Najib to thread a cautious path in managing the country’s financial resources.

Nonetheless, Najib, known for his tenacity and unwavering commitment, took on the task of leading the country based on his mantra – “People First, Performance Now”.

The year witnessed numerous bold transformation initiatives by the “Father of Transformation” based on the 1Malaysia aspiration that has been the hallmark of Najib’s initiatives.

It is apparent that many of his efforts are showing results. The people too in general appreciated his strategies and public approval on Najib’s leadership has improved tremendously.

A popularity study by Universiti Islam Antarabangsa (IIUM) and Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM) indicated greater approval for Najib from all races in the country.IIUM’s four-year study pointed out that Najib’s popularity among the Malays shows a marked improvement from 35 percent in 2008 to 59 percent in 2011, an increase from 33 to 45 percent among the Chinese and from 41 to 62 percent among the Indians.

A similar study conducted by UPM this year on the minorities – Indian Muslims, Portuguese, Baba Nyonya, Orang Asli, Siam and Chitty – found a total of 54.2 percent of the minorities giving their thumbs-up for Najib.

1Malaysia brand

Just mention the rhyming acronyms – KR1M, PR1MA, MR1M, BR1M and the latest KIR1M – they immediately refer to Najib’s effort to touch base with the people, especially the needy.

The KR1M or the Kedai Rakyat 1Malaysia are retail outlets offering daily necessities at affordable prices, up to 60 percent below other retail outlets.

The whole idea is to reduce the burden of urban poor, with KR1M offering daily necessities like rice, egg, milk, flour and chili sauce. Also available are frozen items, diapers and detergents.KR1M is further complemented by Kedai Ikan Rakyat 1Malaysia (KIR1M) launched this month, offering fresh seafood at prices 30 to 40 percent lower than prevailing market price.

Menu Rakyat 1 Malaysia (MR1M) ensures the man on the street enjoys a meal worth up to RM2 for breakfast and RM4 for lunch.As at December 16, the number of vendors who joined the MR1M scheme had roughly doubled, with 1,155 MR1M outlets opened all over the nation, compared with 611 when launched last July.

In the latest move, the MR1M outlets would be available at all higher education institutions starting with Universiti Malaya.

The 1Malaysia Public Housing Project (PR1MA) was launched on July 4 as a strategic initiative to fulfil the housing needs of the people, especially the urban middle-class.In Putrajaya, under the programme 560 affordable homes priced between RM120,000 and RM150,000 in Precinct 11 were allocated for local youths with household income below RM6,000. This project is expected to be extended to other places like Johor Baru and Penang.

The 2012 Budget allocated RM100 to every school student and book vouchers worth RM200 for undergraduates. The government’s goodwill was further extended with the RM500 hand-out under 1Malaysia Public Assistance (BR1M) for households earning less than RM3,000.

Making the transformation a reality

Realising that the people have been yearning for positive changes, a number of transformation programmes has been launched. Among them is the Economic Transformation Programme (ETP) that puts Malaysia on the path to emerge as a high income nation by 2020.

One of the 85 programmes implemented in 2011 is the Small Retail Outlet Transformation Programme (TUKAR) to help modernise small-time retailers and help them to compete with other players.

The programme is expected to contribute RM5.56 billion and create 51,540 employment opportunities.

On the whole, all the ETP initiatives launched in 2011 are expected to contribute RM150 billion and create more than 300,000 employment opportunities by 2020.

The government transformation, too, is showing results. Malaysia was listed on the 19th spot among the safest country index, a significant improvement from the 38th spot in 2008.

The same index also picked Malaysia as the safest country in Southeast Asia and fourth safest spot in the Asia-Pacific region, behind New Zealand, Japan and Australia.

One of the seven National Key Result Areas (NKRA) is reducing crime.Najib etched his name in the nation’s history when he repealed the controversial Internal Security Act 1960 (ISA) and Banishment Act 1959.

He also said that the Restricted Residence Act 1933, Printing Presses and Publications Act 1984 would be reviewed. The move was welcomed by most, within and outside the country.Also on review is Section 27, Police Act 1967 that provides discretionary powers to the Police to control and issue permits for rallies.

The latest, and another landmark decision by Najib, is the amendments to Section 15 of the Universities and University Colleges Act 1971, allowing undergraduates to join political parties upon reaching 21 years of age.

Regaining the dignity of sports

Just a decade ago, it was rare to see Malaysians donning the national jersey and, what more, to see them on the store shelves.Today it is a different story altogether. The “Harimau Malaya” and “Team Malaysia” jerseys are hot items. People were annoyed when they found out that the outlets have ran out of stock for the jerseys.

The private sector, too, has shown interest in Malaysian sports. Astro-pay-TV now has a dedicated channel, channel 801, to cover the sports development in the country.

Malaysian telecommunication giant TM also got itself involved in sports through “Team Malaysia” and gave a helping hand in the national contingent’s preparation for the recent 26th SEA Games, the upcoming Olympics 2012, and the Asian Games and Commonwealth Games both in 2014.

Nonetheless, the government’s commitment is still needed and under Najib the sporting fraternity is certain to see greater achievements.

People the beneficiaries

Social activist, Khairil Hafidz Khairuddin, 29, noted that while he lauded the government’s programmes, there was still room for improvements to ensure the objectives were met.

“A body to monitor each initiative is necessary for all the programmes. The monitoring body could also review the programmes to check whether they were still relevant or otherwise. It could also propose new programmes to be implemented by the government for the benefit of the people,” he said.

A private sector employee, Raju Guruvelu, 35, noted that the BR1M monetary programme is a good effort in easing the burden of the low-income earners.

As for Mohd Azrul Kamaruddin, 31, he was impressed by the government’s efforts to promote products from rural entrepreneurs through the annual Rural Entrepreneur Carnival (KUD).

“I love to see the host of products that we rarely see in the open market. All of them are locally made,” he said.

At the 2011 KUD, Najib announced an initial allocation of RM50 million under the Small Scale Dynamic Entrepreneur (UK Dinamik) programme to assist small-scale entrepreneurs, especially in the rural areas.


Bruno Manser Fonds: Arrest and Criminally Prosecute Sarawak’s Taib Mahmud and Family

December 30, 2011

Bruno Manser Fonds  to Malaysian Authorities: Arrest and Criminally Prosecute Sarawak’s Taib Mahmud and Family

In a letter to Malaysia’s Attorney General (AG), the Chief Commissioner of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) and the Inspector General of Police (IGP), an international NGO coalition is requesting that Malaysia’s top prosecutors immediately arrest and criminally prosecute long-term Sarawak Chief Minister Abdul Taib Mahmud (“Taib”), his four children, his eight siblings and his first cousin, Abdul Hamed Sepawi (“Sepawi”).

According to the NGOs’ letter to Malaysia’s top prosecutors, Taib and “thirteen of his family members as co-conspirators” are accused of “the illegal appropriation of public funds, the abuse of public office, the illegal appropriation of state land, fraud, larceny, corruption, systematic exploitation of conflicts of interest, suspected money-laundering, and conspiracy to form a criminal organization.”

The letter is signed by thirteen NGOs from Malaysia, Australia, Germany, Japan, Switzerland and the United Kingdom as well as a number of individual signatories from Malaysia. Greenpeace, FERN and the Swiss Bruno Manser Fund are among its most prominent international signatories. Three NGOS from Sarawak – Borneo Resources Institute Sarawak (BRIMAS), The Network for Native Land Rights (TAHABAS) and the Sibu-based Institute for Development of Alternative Living (IDEAL) – have also endorsed the letter.

Foreign governments, corporations and media informed on Taib’s corruption

Copies of the letter have been sent to all major foreign embassies in Malaysia, heads of government, cabinet ministers and prosecutors in seven countries, the top executives of ten multinational corporations who conduct business in or with Sarawak and the editors of leading media around the globe. The letter is accompanied by sixteen exhibits that document the accusations against the Taib family and can be downloaded online at

Research by the Bruno Manser Fund has shown that Taib and his immediate family members have a stake in 332 Malaysian and 85 foreign companies worth several billion US dollars. The known Taib family stake in the net assets of 14 large Malaysian companies alone is over 1.46 billion US dollars.

Taib family accused of systematic breach of the law and the use of illegal methods

“We allege that only the systematic breach of the law and the use of illegal methods has enabled Mr. Taib and his family members to acquire such massive corporate assets”, the NGO letter states. “Mr. Taib has been a state-paid public servant and government minister ever since 1963 and did not possess any significant independent assets prior to taking up office.”

The letter gives three examples of Taib family-controlled Malaysian companies that have been systematically, unduly and unlawfully favoured by the Sarawak Chief Minister – Cahya Mata Sarawak (KLSE 2582), Achi Jaya Holdings and Ta Ann Holdings (KLSE 5012). Cahya Mata Sarawak holds a monopoly on cement production in Sarawak, Achi Jaya Holdings holds a monopoly on timber export licences and Ta Ann Holdings, which is headed by Taib’s cousin Sepawi, has been granted more than 675,000 hectares of timber and plantation concessions without public tender.

“Pernicious and detrimental” capital flight should be heavily punished

In addition, the NGOs point to the Taib family’s transfer of illicit assets worth “hundreds of millions, if not billions, of US dollars” out of Malaysia to countries such as Canada, the United Kingdom, the United States, Australia and Hong Kong. “This is particularly pernicious and detrimental for the economy of Sarawak and Malaysia as a whole and should thus be heavily punished.”

The Taib family has been identified as being behind property companies in Canada (Sakto Corporation, City Gate International Corporation and others), in the UK (Ridgeford Properties Ltd.), in the US (Wallysons Inc, Sakti International Corporation and others) and as being closely linked to at least 22 companies in Australia. Some of these companies have, according to the NGOs’ letter, been given to the Taibs free of charge by the son of Yaw Teck Seng, the founder and majority shareholder of Samling, one of Malaysia’s biggest logging conglomerates. Other Taib companies, such as Regent Star and Richfold Investments in Hong Kong, have been found to be linked to a multi-million-dollar kickback scheme uncovered by Japanese tax investigators.

Malaysia’s international credibility is at stake

The NGOs come to the conclusion that “the criminal nature of Mr. Taib and his family members’ ‘private’ businesses can no longer be denied by anyone who is intellectually honest, desirous of seeing the truth and interested in the good of the Malaysian people and, in particular, the people of Sarawak”.

“We would like to remind you that Malaysia, as a signatory to the UN Convention against corruption and the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, has a strong international obligation to fight corruption and organized crime in an efficient, timely and expedient manner”, the letter states.

Malaysia’s top prosecutors are finally asked to fulfil their duty and take immediate police action against Abdul Taib Mahmud and his 13 co-conspiring family members: “Malaysia’s international credibility is at stake over the Taib case.”

Read the NGO letter to the Malaysian prosecutors:

letter_ag_macc_igp_signed.pdf (905KB)

A World of Gray

December 30, 2011

A World of Gray

by Gareth Evans (12-26-11)

Václav Havel, the Czech playwright and dissident turned president, and North Korean despot Kim Jong-il might have lived on different planets, for all their common commitment to human dignity, rights, and democracy. When they died just a day apart this month, the contrast was hard for the global commentariat to resist: Prague’s Prince of Light against Pyongyang’s Prince of Darkness.

But it is worth remembering that Manichaean good-versus-evil typecasting, to which former US President George W. Bush and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair were famously prone, and of which we have had something of a resurgence in recent days, carries with it two big risks for international policymakers.

One risk is that such thinking limits the options for dealing effectively with those who are cast as irredeemably evil. The debacle of the United States-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 should have taught us once and for all the peril of talking only through the barrel of a gun to those whose behavior disgusts us.

Sometimes, threats to a civilian population will be so acute and immediate as to make coercive military intervention the only option, as with Muammar el-Qaddafi’s Libya, at least at the time of the imminent assault on Benghazi in March. But more often it will be a matter of relying on less extreme measures, like targeted sanctions and threats of international prosecution – and on diplomatic pressure and persuasion.

Negotiating with the genocidal butchers of the Khmer Rouge was acutely troubling, personally and politically, for those of us involved, but those talks secured a lasting peace in Cambodia. And it is only negotiation – albeit backed by good old-fashioned containment and deterrence – that can possibly deliver sustainable peace with Iran and North Korea.

The second risk that arises from seeing the world in black-and-white terms is greater public cynicism, thereby making ideals-based policymaking in the future even harder. Expectations raised too high are expectations bound to be disappointed: think of former British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook’s “ethical foreign policy” at the start of Blair’s premiership.

Political leaders who make a big play of “values” are often those most likely to stumble. Think of the lamentable response by US President Bill Clinton’s administration to the Rwandan genocide in 1994 or Australia’s shameful rejection of asylum-seeking boat people in the Tampa affair under John Howard’s government a decade ago.

Then there is many Western governments’ highly selective embrace of democracy when it results in the election of those (like Hamas) whom they find unacceptable; the unwillingness of almost every nuclear-weapons state to match its disarmament rhetoric with credible action; and the almost universal double-talk on climate change.

But if double talk were an indictable offense, there would be few left to attend international summits. The task is neither to pillory nor to sanctify political leaders caught in these traps, but somehow to reconcile what they will often see as hopelessly competing demands of moral values and national interests, and to find ways to get them to do more good and less harm.

A useful way forward in this respect may be to rethink fundamentally the concept of “national interest.” Traditionally seen as having just two dimensions – economic and geostrategic – there is a strong case for adding a third: every country’s interest in being, and being seen to be, a good international citizen.

Actively helping to solve global public-goods challenges (like climate change, human-rights protection, international piracy, drug trafficking, cross-border population flows, and elimination of weapons of mass destruction), even when there is no direct economic or strategic payoff, is not simply the foreign policy equivalent of Boy Scout good deeds.

Selfless cooperation on these issues can actually work to a country’s advantage by boosting its reputation and generating reciprocal support: my help in solving your drug-trafficking problem today will increase the chances of you supporting my asylum-seeker problem tomorrow. And a story couched in these realist terms is likely to be easier to sell to domestic constituencies than one pitched as disinterested altruism.

Countries should pursue what the great international-relations scholar Hedley Bull called “purposes beyond ourselves”: our common humanity demands no less. But the real world is a place of gray shades, not black and white, and more often than not the cause of human decency and security will be better served by recognizing and working around that constraint rather than challenging it head on.

Gareth Evans, Chancellor of the Australian National University, was Australia’s foreign minister from 1988 to 1996 and is President Emeritus of the International Crisis Group.

Copyright: Project Syndicate, 2011.

Freemalaysiatoday’s Top Newsmaker of the Year 2011 is…

December 30, 2011

Dato S. Ambiga of BERSIH2.0

BERSIH2.0 hero S. Ambiga was named FMT’s top newsmaker of the year after some 57% of its readers voted for her, drubbing more prominent figures like Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim and Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak.

This comes as no surprise, given the amount of headlines Ambiga, a former president of the Malaysian Bar Council, had accumulated throughout the year.The year 2011 showered on Ambiga both positive and negative coverage, much of it due to her involvement in several rocking controversial events.

What does come as a surprise is that Shahrizat Abdul Jalil was next in line despite barely making the headlines, at least up until the RM250-million National Feedlot Corporation (NFC) scandal broke out last month.

The Women’s Affair, Family and Community Development Minister is now facing growing calls to quit her post from her own UMNO party members who view her as a liability.

The “attention” given to Shahrizat, who is Wanita UMNO chief, by FMT readers perhaps reflects the weight of the scandal and the potential damage it may do to the ruling coalition in the upcoming national polls.

Shahrizat received 534 votes or a 9% rating next to Ambiga, similar to the percentage received by Anwar who came in third in the chart after gaining five votes lesser.

Meanwhile, Najib was two points behind his wife Rosmah Mansor. Rosmah came in fourth with 416 votes or a 7% rating.

Rosmah, who is known for her love of luxury goods, made several headlines for allegedly owning “blings” or diamond ring and a bangle worth more than RM70 million. She has, however, denied these allegations.

Taib of Sarawak in sixth spot

Rosmah also came under fire when she was accused of using taxpayers’ money to ship items she bought on a shopping spree at the upmarket area of London. This, too, she has denied.

Below her at fifth spot is Auditor-General Ambrin Buang with 281 votes or a 5% rating.

Just as in the past years, Ambrin shocked and infuriated Malaysians with disclosures of the government’s financial “mess”.

Next at sixth spot is the notorious Pehin Sri  Taib Mahmud, Sarawak’s and the world’s longest-serving Chief Minister, whose alleged corruption has made global news and compelled an international investigation in his business and assets abroad. Locally, too, there has been increased calls for the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission to investigate him.

AirAsia CEO Tony Fernandes was next in line, after Najib, at seventh, with 129 votes or a 2% rating.He surprisingly gained more votes than firebrand Ibrahim Ali, the chief of the Malay right-wing group PERKASA.

Ibrahim has been in the news throughout 2011, making more headlines for his racism  that have upset the country’s minorities.

Fernandes also scored better than “Datuk T”, a trio comprising former Malacca Chief Minister Rahim Tamby Chik, businessman Eskay Shahril and former PERKASA treasurer Shuaib Lazim.The three made headlines after they claimed to have a video of Anwar having sex with a Chinese woman believed to be a sex worker.

The PKR leader denied he was the said man and alleged that the video was an UMNO conspiracy to destroy his image.

Han Han: China’s Star Blogger on 2012

December 30, 2011

Han on a minute

China’s Star Blogger on 2012

Han Han, one of the most widely read bloggers in a country that censors its independent voices, is a rebel who does not really seek to overthrow anybody, a troublemaker who does not want to cause too much trouble. He sees, with dismay, much the same limitations among his readers in China.

Looking ahead to 2012, he sees harder times for the Chinese people, but he does not foresee any crisis, nor any hope for improvement from the coming new “arrangement” of party leaders, because the people ultimately are willing to accept hardship.

The Economist interviewed Mr Han in Zaozhuang, at the mid-point of the Beijing-Shanghai high-speed rail line. He had just finished second in a weekend rally race, two seconds behind first place. When he explains why the coming change in Communist Party leadership does not mean much in itself, he underscores his point with racing terminology.

“Each time there is a new leader, the Chinese people have new hopes. They hope they will become very open leaders, and then as before, they don’t do anything. I think we still have to depend on those writers and artists to do their part,” he says. “Just like race car driving: no push, no change. So I think we still need to depend on ourselves to obtain greater open space.”

For people like him, 2012 will be a hard year: “For a writer, that period is the most uncomfortable because the controls from the party, from the government, will be tighter than in normal times,” he says. And most others won’t bother to push, because “Chinese people’s demands are lower,” he says. They are “meek”.

What about all of the noisy clamour, then, on Sina Weibo, a microblogging  service that, despite being monitored and censored, was an impressive catalyst for discontent after the Wenzhou train crash of 2011? Could that portend something more challenging for the government in 2012? He dismisses that notion with the clever cynicism that has marked his writing since he was a teenager.

Mr Han, 29, made his name a decade ago as a novelist, and has since built a following of millions online for his blog postings (the most subversive of which are quickly taken down, including a scathing commentary on the Wenzhou crash). He can express himself powerfully in just a few characters: his blog post on the awarding of the 2010 Nobel peace prize to a dissident, Liu Xiaobo, was merely an empty set of quotation marks. His problem with Weibo is that users are content merely with the act of transmission.

“It doesn’t bring about any real change or progress. You see a lot of stuff about the Wenzhou incident, you feel everyone’s really angry, you feel like you could go open the window and you would see protesters on the street,” Mr Han says. “But once you open the window, you realise that there’s nothing there at all.”

Mr Han says he will try to do more in 2012 himself, as a writer, but within limits. He plans a new magazine but says it won’t be too controversial (his first try at a magazine, in 2009, was quickly shut down by authorities). He does not want to attract more attention from China’s security services, because he does not want hassle for those around him. As much as he derides the limits of Weibo, Mr Han warns people not to expect too much from him in 2012.

“I won’t do anything terribly radical because I believe that it’s really like motor racing. My first point is ‘no push, no change’, but my second point is, if you push too hard, maybe your time will be slower. And maybe you push much too hard and crash.”

from The World In 2012 print edition

STOP The Business of Corruption

December 30, 2011

The Business of Corruption in Malaysia

by Jeswan Kaur (12-29-11)

One must beware of ministers who can do nothing without money and those who want to do everything with money– Indira Gandhi.

Corruption has become a way of life for politicians in this country. Under the disguise of defending the rakyat’s well-being, these unscrupulous politicians are, in fact, looking after the welfare of their own kith and kin.

This “C” (corruption) factor while a favourite among the politicians has become a menace and bane for the people, most whom have become exasperated at the after-effects of a corrupt system.

Earlier this month, the Transparency International Malaysia survey revealed that for the third consecutive year, Malaysia recorded a decline in its Corruption Perception Index score, its 4.3 score slightly lower than the 4.4 recorded in 2010 and much lower than the government benchmark of 4.9.

Is it fair to deduce that a lack of political will is the reason corruption in Malaysia is doing “brisk” business? If the recent cases of palm greasing involving politicians who also hold ministerial responsibilities are any indication, then yes, there is no commitment coming from the “powers that be” to weed out corruption from the system.

Nipping the malignant bud of corruption is not something the Federal Government is interested in. Instead, the government under the Barisan Nasional flagship is doing the reverse.

When Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak “unceremoniously” deported French human rights lawyer William Bourdon five months ago, Suara Rakyat Malaysia or Suaram was convinced that the premier and his government are “inextricably linked” with the Scorpene submarines corruption scandal.

Bourdon was representing Suaram in a high-profile case filed against submarines’ vendor DCN at the Parisian courts. (In 2002, Najib then the Defence Minister, sanctioned the purchase of the Scorpene submarines amid accusations of gross over-pricing and kickbacks).

“It is the biggest mistake yet by the Malaysian Gvernment for it is an affront to diplomacy, to international law and common decency. It was a totally arbitrary act by the Home Ministry and a gross abuse of executive power of the Najib administration,” Suaram Director Cynthia Gabriel retorted via a statement on July 27, four days after Bourdon’s deportation.

‘Leadership by Example’

Najib has since denied having had a hand in any financial impropriety in the submarines deal. Now, following in his wrong steps is the Women, Family and Community Development Minister Shahrizat Abdul Jalil who is vehemently denying any involvement in the misappropriation of funds allotted to the National Feedlot Centre which is headed by her husband Dr. Mohamad Salleh Ismail and the couple’s children.

Details furnished by the opposition party PKR show that Shahrizat and her family have misused the RM250 million meant for NFC by purchasing a luxury condominium in Bangsar, Kuala Lumpur and another one in Singapore, a Mercedez Benz and an all expenses-paid Umrah.

Pressure has been mounting on Shahrizat to quit  but no thanks to the nation’s top two leaders i.e. Najib and his Deputy Muhyiddin Yassin who are playing “godfathers” to her, the 58-year-old Shahrizat seems unfazed and is capitalising on her 16 years experience as a politician to cover up her tracks.

Najib thought deporting Bourdon would be the end of his worry, but not as far as Suaram is concerned, with this human right group going all out to pin the premier down. Shahrizat should learn her lesson and own up before she is rejected by the people, “unceremoniously” that is.

Corruption thriving in Malaysia

The NFC scandal has become Shahrizat’s worst political nightmare. On December 23, the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) raided the NFC office at Mont Kiara. A day earlier, the MACC set up a special team to investigate allegations of corruption involving NFC.

While the NFC scandal remains the hottest topic at present, also having caught the people’s attention was news that aides of Najib and Muhyiddin and a Deputy Minister were allegedly “bought” by a businessman to obtain contracts from the government and its agencies, as exposed by a blogger, “The Whistleblower711”.

Deputy Finance Minister Awang Adek Hussin, who was implicated, claims that his “conscience is clear” and the money received was not corruption but instead for the benefit of the people of Bachok, where he is the UMNO division chief.

Whatever their excuses, Shahrizat, Najib, Awang Adek and Sarawak Chief Minister Taib Mahmud best take cognisance of the fate that befell former Selangor Menteri Besar Dr Khir Toyo who on December 23 was jailed to one year after he was found guilty of obtaining for himself and his wife a valuable property at a consideration Khir knew was insufficient four years ago.

The court also ordered that Khir’s land and bungalow be forfeited. So much for Khir trying to ride on his MBship to amass for himself a fortune. Politicians must at all times remember that you are here to serve the rakyat – “people first and not money” must be your undertaking.

Jeswan Kaur is a freelance writer and a FMT columnist.

The Brazilian Model: Growth with Inclusion and Sustainability

December 29, 2011

The Brazilian Model: Growth with Inclusion and Sustainability

by Dilma Rousseff, President of Brazil in The World in 2012, The Economist

“Governance structures need to change accordingly, to reflect the world as it is today, in particular the UN Security Council, the IMF and the World Bank. Developing countries need to have their voices heard, and their concerns and contributions taken into account”–Dilma Rousseff

The world is changing fast. We are experiencing an inflexion in the global distribution of wealth, with a number of countries emerging as new centres of economic and social development. Brazil is one of these new centres. It will become the world’s fourth-largest economy by 2030, behind China, America and India.

More important, in the past eight years we have lifted over 40m Brazilians—almost the size of Spain’s population—out of poverty and into the middle classes, with access to health, education, credit and formal employment.

We are also living in a period of crisis for the advanced economies. Debt accumulation is no substitute for rising wages, and market self-regulation is no substitute for government regulation. The rich world is now searching for a more balanced economic model and there are some common policies that we should all pursue in 2012 to build sustainable and inclusive democracies.

First, we should build a more balanced relationship between the state and the market. Governments should allow markets to do what they do best: innovate and increase productivity. But governments should also work to avoid the instability and income inequality that result from unregulated markets.

Second, we should all adopt pro-growth policies. Rather than losing energy in currency and trade wars, we should focus on expanding our own economies and rebalancing trade flows. This would allow a fast recovery in advanced economies and continued development in emerging economies.

Third, we should all strive to raise wages in line with productivity, so that the recovery benefits the middle classes in rich economies and allows hundreds of millions of people to get out of poverty in developing ones. The market alone does not improve income distribution. Government action is needed.

And we should all move to a more environmentally sustainable economic model. The world needs to adapt its pattern of production and consumption to reduce carbon emissions, while adding billions of new consumers to the market. Rather than being a cost, this can open new opportunities for investment and employment within countries, as well as more co-operation between them.

The Rio+20 global conference in June 2012 will be an opportunity for world leaders to discuss our common challenges in the 21st century. Brazil and other developing countries have much to say and propose in terms of green and inclusive development.

Together with our South American neighbours, we have come a long way from a past plagued by slavery and the predatory exploitation of the land and its indigenous inhabitants. The colonial heritage left deep social scars and inequities. The recent improvement in Brazilian living standards and income distribution has been the result of a political decision to benefit poorer families. The maintenance of stable macroeconomic policies and the expansion in our social-protection programmes have started a virtuous circle of development led by the domestic market.

The Brazilian model has proved to be self-reinforcing. Bigger government transfers to the poor have expanded consumption and created new opportunities for investment. Financial incentives for private investment and increased public investment have raised Brazil’s output capacity and productivity, so that the economy can grow faster without excessive inflation. And the government’s labour policies, especially our minimum wage, have guaranteed that the productivity gains get transmitted to wages, the source of the growth of the middle class. Today Brazil’s fast-growing consumer market supports self-sustained economic development not just in Brazil but throughout our region.

The expansion of Brazil’s middle class has also involved actively incorporating those historically excluded from development. The government’s policies are markedly pro-women. They also seek to eliminate child labour and school evasion. They are protective of the elderly and counter racial discrimination with the help of affirmative action.

A bigger say in the world

We see the future in the deepening of our national project based on growth with inclusion and sustainability, and in linking it with the destiny of our South and Latin American friends.  We are fortunate to live in a low-conflict area of the world, irreversibly nuclear-weapons-free, and extremely promising in terms of its energy, mineral, industrial and food-production potential. We believe in broad-based regional integration, and in similar relations with the wider world.

Governance structures need to change accordingly, to reflect the world as it is today, in particular the UN Security Council, the IMF and the World Bank. Developing countries need to have their voices heard, and their concerns and contributions taken into account.

FELDA Controversy: Tengku Razaleigh’s Help Sought

December 29,2011

FELDA Controversy: Tengku Razaleigh’s Help Sought

by Hafiz Yatim@

A non-governmental organisation representing the children of FELDA settlers (ANAK), hopes to rope former Finance Minister Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah into the fight against the listing of Felda Global Ventures Holdings Bhd (FGV) next month.

NONEANAK President Mazlan Aliman said he would be meeting Tengku Razaleigh (left) at a private location this afternoon.

Mazlan, who is also PAS central committee member, said the Kelantan Prince, who was also one of the founding members of FELDA along with then Prime Minister Tun Abdul Razak Hussein, had reservations about the move.

“I met Tengku Razaleigh last year, and he was opposed to the idea of FELDA building its new headquarters on private land in a prime city spot in Kuala Lumpur. This is despite there being government land available at cheaper rates.

“He (Tengku Razaleigh) asked for today’s meeting and we will meet to exchange views and ideas over the latest move taken by the present Prime Minister, Dato Seri Najib Abdul Razak, to list Felda Global Ventures,” he said.

He hopes that Tengku Razaleigh and others, including Perkasa, will support its cause in opposing the proposed listing.NONE

“PERKASA, as a Malay rights group, should be supporting us as the matter involves Malay land. However, it dances to the tune of the Prime Minister.

“There will be many more people joining our cause  in the coming days, including a former senior person from FELDA.” Mazlan (centre in photo) said.

He was speaking to reporters after meeting with 11 other NGOs to form the Save FELDA Movement (Gerakan Selamatkan FELDA) today.

Also present were national laureatte A Samad Said and former Bank Negara Malaysia Deputy Governor Dr Rosli Yaakop.

FELDA or the Federal Land Development Authority is known as the largest land development authority for settlers planting rubber and oil palm in the country. It is also UMNO’s and  the BN’s vote bank as FELDA settlements are located  in the rural heartland of the Malays. The latest move sees the proposed listing of Felda Global Ventures, a lesser known subsidiary, after taking over the assets of Koperasi Permodalan Felda Bhd (KPFB).

This is viewed as undermining the rights of the settlers and opening the ownership of their land to investors, including foreigners, following the listing exercise. This, Mazlan claims, would further undermine the original intent of the setting up of FELDA, which is to help poor rural Malays.

Mazlan said the NGOs have also written to the International Cooperative Alliance, the world body governing the cooperative movement, to look into this government move, and also the proposed appointment of FELDA chairperson Isa Samad (left) as FGV chairperson.

“We have also brought up this issue to ANGKASA (the National Cooperatives Body) to complain about the illegal move.”

In a strong statement against Isa, Mazlan slammed the former Negri Sembilan Menteri Besar’s appointment as the cooperative chairperson. Isa will also spearhead the listing exercise of FELDA Global Ventures.

“Isa is not a member of the cooperative, he is neither a staff member nor a settler. His appointment by the Prime Minister is by contract.Hence, his appointment as the cooperative’s chairperson is illegal,” he said.

Call for Isa’s removal

Mazlan and the coalition of GSF also called for Isa’s removal as FELDA chairperson and Sabri Ahmad as Chief Executive Officer of FELDA Global Ventures.

“Their appointments, within less than a year, have caused turmoil in Felda’s assets and we call for their removal. Isa was found guilty of money politics during the UMNO elections and his appointment is questionable. Furthermore, FELDA Global Ventures registered losses of RM500 million in its foreign ventures,” he said.

Mazlan said when Raja Muhammad Alias left as FELDA chairperson, it had RM5 billion in reserves, “but sadly today, we do not know how much is left”. In addition to this, he said FELDA recently took a RM5 billion loan from the Employees Provident Fund “and we do not know how much of it is spent or left”.

“All this must be accounted for,” he said, adding he had reliably learned that FELDA’s reserves have dwindled. Mazlan also said that unlike the past, FELDA was now holding settlers to ransom with the replanting scheme, as it was now empowered to impose a caveat on the settlers’ land.

“There was no such agreement in the past and this is detrimental to the settlers. You can ask those at FELDA Cahaya Baru, FELDA Sungai Buaya, FELDA Sendayan and FELDA LBJ,” he said.

Rosli said FELDA Global Ventures did not have the financial strength to go for listing on its own, as it was not making a huge profit but was relying on KPFB’s strength.  “Isa cannot be appointed chairperson of KPFB as he is not a member. The voices of members are important in the cooperatives movement. But in Isa’s case, he is not even a member, but yet he is appointed and his appointment is bulldozed by Najib.”

“Hence, Isa’s appointment to head the cooperatives is against the spirit of the cooperatives movement,” added Rosli, who is an economist.

NONEMazlan said the court case to prevent the listing of FELDA Global Ventures on Bursa Malaysia has been fixed for Wednesday, January 4. ANAK is seeking an injunction to stop the proposed meeting on the listing, scheduled for the next day.

He warned that if  attempts to prevent the listing of FELDA Global Ventures were not successful, ANAK and the other 11 NGOs would not hesitate to go to the streets to demonstrate the proposed listing.

“We have done all we can peacefully, sent a memorandum to the Prime Minister, filed the court case, met with Suruhanjaya Koperasi Malaysia (Malaysia Cooperatives Commission) and have written to the International Cooperatives Alliance.

“If the listing goes through, the livelihood and status of the settlers and their children will be in jeopardy.That is why we will protest if Najib does  not heed our pleas,” Mazlan said, adding that he fould it puzzling that while Abdul Razak Hussein successfully built FELDA, his son Najib is seen as dismantling it.

The Alleged Plagiarist Judge is still around

December 29, 2011

The Alleged Plagiarist Judge is still around

by S

Veteran lawyer Karpal Singh today renewed his call for Court of Appeal Judge Abdul Malik Ishak’s resignation for keeping mum on the allegation of plagiarism made against the Judge.

Demanding that Justice Abdul Malik quit in the public interest, Karpal said the judge had committed a “serious act of misconduct”.

“He is no more a fit and proper person to continue to hold the high office in the Court of Appeal. It goes without saying that his continued occupation of that high office is an embarrassment to the Judiciary,” said Karpal, who is also the DAP’s Bukit Gelugor MP.

The allegation against the Judge was first reported in 2000 and caused a row between Singapore and Malaysia. Former Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Rais Yatim, who held the law and parliamentary affairs portfolio when Singapore authorities lodged the complaint in 2000, has said he does not the know the outcome of the complaint as he had left the portfolio in 2004.

Retired Singapore Judge GP Selvam brought up the issue when he claimed that his judgment had been plagiarised in a copyright matter. According to reports quoting Selvam, the Malaysian Judge had backdated his judgment as if to reflect it was his own.Karpal had sent a letter to the Judge on August 22 and given him seven days to respond. However, there has been none to date.

The senior lawyer wrote another letter on September 29, informing the Judge that since he did not reply to the claim of plagiarism, it amounted to an admission of the misconduct.On October 4, while Parliament was in session, Karpal, submitted a motion – supported by 59 Pakatan Rakyat MPs – calling for a tribunal against Abdul Malik to answer to the plagiarism charge.

“You have, despite your silence all along over the serious allegations I’ve made against you, if untrue, the remedy to sue me for defamation as I’m going public on the allegation,” said Karpal, in a letter that was delivered by hand to Abdul Malik yesterday.

He offered Abdul Malik another seven days to counter the claims, otherwise take the silence as a “public admission” of being guilty of plagiarism.

‘The Speaker should hold sway’

As Parliament was adjourned on December 1, Karpal’s private motion lapsed, as it is in the powers of the ruling government to call the shots when it comes to motions. This, Karpal added, should not be the way. “Rightfully, it should be the speaker who should hold sway regarding proceedings in Parliament.

”Prior to this the identity of the Judge was blanked out by the media, pending the right to reply to the allegations. However, it was finally published by Malaysiakini when Karpal appeared before the alleged plagiarist, Judge Abdul Malik Ishak, asking for his recusal to hear an appeal in a case related to a drug offence.

Prior to the accusation against Abdul Malik of having committed plagiarism, the judge had heard an appeal related to Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim’s second sodomy charge. In the course of the appeal, Abdul Malik had allegedly maligned Anwar and his lawyer Karpal in a written judgment.

Upon appeal at the Federal Court, however, the comments were expunged. Asked if Karpal had a personal vendetta against the judge following the remarks, he said: “I’ve nothing personal against him. This is just out of public interest.”

The UUCA and The Universities

December 29, 2011

The UUCA and The Universities

By Shad Saleem Faruqi(12-28-11)

Instead of using the sledgehammer of the law, universities could use the law of contract and the techniques of private law to keep politics in campus under reasonable control.

THE Prime Minister has instructed that the Universities and University Colleges Act (UUCA) be amended to achieve two aims: First, to permit adult students to join political parties. Second, to ensure that campuses still remain free of partisan politics.Permitting political affiliation poses no legal problems. However, there is one contentious issue: Are students going to qualify for political affiliation at 18 (the age of majority) or at 21 (the age of the right to vote)?

The second aim – keeping campuses free of politics – is more complicated and the journey will cover many slippery slopes.

The Higher Education Minister has constituted a committee and has directed it to consult all affected parties. Such consultation will lend democratic legitimacy to the process. However, one must note that consultation does not impose a duty to obey the wishes of those consulted. Many conflicting opinions are bound to surface during the consultation and the committee in framing its recommendations will have to try to reconcile the irreconcilable.

Political affiliation: To permit students to join political parties, the following provisions of UUCA (and their equivalents in the Private Higher Educational Institutions Act 1996 and the Educational Institutions (Discipline) Act 1976) need to be repealed or amended;

– Subsections 15(1)(a) and 15(2)(a) that prohibit students and student groups from associating with political parties,

– Subsection 15(1)(c) and 15(2)(c) that prohibit students and student groups from associating with any organisation declared by the minister to be unsuitable for student affiliation. The minister’s power, though never exercised, is very broad and could conceivably be used to name political parties,

– Subsection 15(3) that deals with the vice-chancellors’ duty to communicate the minister’s list of unsuitable organisations to students, and

– Subsection 15(5)(a) that bans students and student groups from expressing sympathy or support for, or doing anything which may reasonably be construed as expressing sympathy or support for any political party.

In the recent case of Muhammad Hilman Idham, this subsection was declared invalid by the Court of Appeal on constitutional grounds. Students now have a right to attend political ceramahs or to distribute leaflets etc.

Section 15(5)(c) bans students and student groups from expressing sympathy or support for or doing anything which may reasonably be construed as expressing sympathy or support for any organisation deemed unsuitable by the minister.

Section 15(6)(b) permits free speech at seminars, symposiums etc, provided these occasions are not organised by political parties and “unsuitable organisations”. This ban is constitutionally questionable if the seminar is outside the campus.

Keeping campuses politically free: To permit students to immerse in politics outside the university but to insist on political neutrality on campus poses many difficult constitutional challenges.

With legal literacy rising, the Federal Constitution is moving from the peripheries to the centre. Many students are now aware of their constitutional rights.

The Federal Constitution in Article 10(1) grants to all citizens freedom of speech, assembly and association. Article 10(2) permits Parliament to impose restrictions on the above rights on a number of specified grounds.

For example, free speech is subject to eight limits; security of the Federation, friendly relations with other countries, public order, morality, privileges of Parliament, privileges of state assemblies, contempt of court, defamation or incitement to an offence.

As Parliament is not supreme, any legislative restriction must fall squarely within the eight permissible grounds. Many provisions of UUCA appear unconstitutional because of blank-cheque restrictions not confined to the eight permissible limits.

There are likely to be constitutional posers if UUCA permits punishment on a student for wearing a T-shirt, cap or emblem of a political party or possessing or distributing pamphlets or membership forms of a party.

It is likely to be argued by proponents of student freedoms that these activities present no “clear and present danger” to public order, national security etc. The recent Court of Appeal decision in the Hilman case affirmed this view.

The recently passed Peaceful Assembly Bill and the impending repeal of section 27(5) of the Police Act also expand student horizons. Under the new statute, assemblies at public and private places are permitted without a police permit. Students are likely to make use of this law for assemblies outside their campuses.

The dilemma for the draftsmen is therefore this: Any amendments to UUCA must recognise the new demand for compliance with the hitherto forgotten supreme Constitution. At the same time the view of parents, senior civil servants and many academicians must be considered that the torch of learning should not be allowed to be extinguished by the firestorm and fury of political passions.

Suggestions: It is humbly proposed that we need to reorient our thinking in the following ways:

UUCA must be constitutionalised. Only such restrictions on political activism must be imposed as are consonant with our basic charter. For example Article 10(3) permits restrictions on the right to form associations by a law relating to education. This means that while permitting students to have political affiliations, section 49 of the First Schedule of UUCA could be amended to provide that students are forbidden from setting up branches of political parties on campus.

Instead of using the sledgehammer of the law (and facing constitutional challenges), universities could use the law of contract and the techniques of private law to keep politics in campus under reasonable control.

The letter of offer to students could impose a dress code forbidding the wearing of any political emblem.

Students could be required to observe a reserve in politics on campus; to refrain from acting as an election agent or polling agent, or standing for Dewan Rakyat or state assembly elections and holding any post in any political party without prior permission from the VC.

This will have the added advantage of bringing staff and student law relating to political involvement on par with each other.

Many sectors of society, including 1.2 million public servants face similar political restrictions. Politically disruptive activities could be the subject of disciplinary proceedings.

Universities could make adroit use of the law of private property to regulate seminars on campus and to vet the list of invitees. There is some scope for judicial review if this power is abused.

Nevertheless, there is considerable scope for internal regulation as university property is private property. As a matter of general principle, we should distinguish between what the students do on campus and what they do outside. Their outside activities should not be curbed by UUCA but by the ordinary law of the land.

In addition to above changes, there should be sincere efforts to empower students and to recognise their rights and dignity. A precedent already exists.

The 2009 Constitution of USM protects students under a whistleblowers clause. A Student Parliament has been set up. There is a Board Committee on Student Welfare with two democratically elected representatives of students as members.

A student representative may sit on the Student Disciplinary Board. Student welfare has been separated from student discipline.

A thorough programme of re-education for student affairs officers will do much to reduce student grievances and to end the adversarial atmosphere on many campuses.

Students in turn will, of course, have to remember that rights and responsibilities go hand in hand. Abuse of freedom is as bad as abuse of power.

Shad Saleem Faruqi is Emeritus Professor of Law at UiTM and Visiting Professor at USM

Clarify the Status of Isa Samad, says ANAK

December 29, 2011

Clarify the Status of Isa Samad, says ANAK

by Koh Jun Lin@

ANAK, an NGO representing Felda settlers, has lodged a second complaint to the Suruhanjaya Koperasi Malaysia (SKM), asking it to clarify whether Isa Abdul Samad is indeed the chairperson of Koperasi Permodalan Felda Bhd (KPF).

This is due to conflicting accounts on Isa’s position. A letter from the Prime Minister dated August 15, 2011, had appointed Isa as chairperson. However, in response to the ANAK’s inquiries, SKM said that Isa had yet to be appointed to the post as of November 10, based on its own investigations.

SKM also cited the Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Ahmad Maslan reportedly telling the Malay daily Utusan Malaysia on October 25, that Isa had yet to be appointed as chairperson of KPF.

The association is also dissatisfied that SKM’s response has not addressed the issue of Isa’s membership in the cooperative. It claims that Isa is ineligible to be a member.

NONE“We ask for a proper stand from SKM on whether Isa had truly become a member of Felda cooperative,” said Anak chairperson Mazlan Aliman (right), who is also a PAS central committee member.

“Only employees of Felda and its subsidiaries with permanent positions are eligible to become KPF cooperative members, whereas Isa works as chairperson of KPF by contract only,” they wrote in a previous complaint to SKM, citing the cooperative’s bylaws.

Mazlan hopes for a response from SKM before Jan 5, when an extraordinary general meeting (EGM) would be held to address issues relating to Felda Global Ventures Holdings’ listing on Bursa Malaysia.

Anak, which opposes the Bursa listing, has already filed for an injunction to block the EGM, which would be heard at the Kuantan High Court on Jan 4, one day before the EGM.

Debt Is (Mostly) Money We Owe to Ourselves

December 29, 2011

Debt Is (Mostly) Money We Owe to Ourselves

by Paul Krugman, The Conscience of a Liberal (12-28-11)

I want to expand a bit on something Dean Baker said yesterday:

As a country we cannot impose huge debt burdens on our children. It is impossible, at least if we are referring to government debt. The reason is simple: at one point we will all be dead. That means that the ownership of our debt will be passed on to our children. If we have some huge thousand trillion dollar debt that is owed to our children, then how have we imposed a burden on them? There is a distributional issue — Bill Gates’ children may own all the debt — but that is within generations, not between generations. As a group, our children’s well-being will be determined by the productivity of the economy (which Brooks complained about earlier), the state of the physical and social infrastructure and the environment.

One can make the point that much of the debt is owned by foreigners, but this is a result of our trade deficit, which is in turn caused by the over-valued dollar.

I think it’s worth looking at some numbers here.

Below are two series, both expressed as percentages of GDP: total domestic non-financial debt (public plus private), and U.S. net foreign debt, as measured by the negative of the net international investment position:

What you can see here is that there has been a big rise in debt, with a much smaller move into net debtor status for America as a whole; for the most part, the extra debt is money we owe to ourselves.

And here are the same numbers, measured as changes from 1980, so that you can see that the great bulk of the rise in debt was not financed by foreign borrowing.

People think of debt’s role in the economy as if it were the same as what debt means for an individual: there’s a lot of money you have to pay to someone else. But that’s all wrong; the debt we create is basically money we owe to ourselves, and the burden it imposes does not involve a real transfer of resources.

That’s not to say that high debt can’t cause problems — it certainly can. But these are problems of distribution and incentives, not the burden of debt as is commonly understood. And as Dean says, talking about leaving a burden to our children is especially nonsensical; what we are leaving behind is promises that some of our children will pay money to other children, which is a very different kettle of fish.

PERKASA and Article 153 of the Malaysian Constitution

December 29, 2011

PERKASA and Article 153 of the Malaysian Constitution

Maclean Patrick, Malaysia Chronicle | 28 December 2011

PERKASA, as an NGO that is bent on protecting the rights of Malays, will always contort any manner of legislation to suit their arguments – whether right or wrong, fair or unfair.

Obviously, this does not bode well fior the Malays as PERKASA’s extremist stand will be taken to reflect that of the community as a whole.

So if PERKASA adopts a racist and selfish stance, the Malays it claims to represent – by virtue of PERKASA having access to high-profile mainstream media coverage – will also come across as racist, selfish and fearful of competition.

But that as we know is not true. However, one looks at it, PERKASA has little substance, even at its core. It is a mere shallow capsule to further the narcissistic urges of someone who is, politically, a non-entity in Malaysia. This person is its founder president – Ibrahim Ali.

Supported by UMNO

Ibrahim Ali is not afraid to threaten anyone he sees fit because he has the backing of Prime Minister Najib Razak’s UMNO party. And as long as UMNO gives Ibrahim the nod, he can speak all manner of nonsense. Others will get pulled up for sedition or even detained under the draconian Internal Security Act, but not Ibrahim Ali, who never has to account for his words.

The most recent idiotic approach taken by PERKASA towards Article 153 and the comments by Rev Dr Eu Hong Seng, shows its inability to view any subject matter objectively and intelligently. Eu, the National Evangelical Christian Fellowship (NECF) chairman who likened Article 153 to “bullying” for only protecting the rights of one group.

“We demand the government use the Sedition Act on anyone who makes statements like this from now on and charge them in court,” the PERKASA chief told reporters a day ago.

“We’re only upholding what’s in the Federal Constitution. Please don’t keep provoking us on and on because it’s not good for the country. And we have been patient for so long.”

Get the facts right

But who is PERKASA to talk about the Federal Constitution, especially when it gets the facts totally wrong? Then on his interpretation of Article 153, Ibrahim Ali and PERKASA are wrong on various fronts.

Article 153 states that it is the King’s responsibility “to safeguard the special position of the Malays and natives of any of the States of Sabah and Sarawak and the legitimate interests of other communities in accordance with the provisions of this Article”.

The controversial article consists of ten statements, and the first error by PERKASA is that, in Article 153, there is no mention of the term “bumiputra”. The second error is to assert that Article 153 protects the rights of the Malays and Bumiputeras.

The heading for Article 153 gives us a clear picture as to what it covers – Reservation of quotas in respect of services, permits, etc., for Malays and natives of any of the States of Sabah and Sarawak.

Article 153(1) uses the broad term “the special position of the Malays and natives of any of the States of Sabah and Sarawak and the legitimate interests of other communities in accordance with the provisions of this Article.”

The “special position” refers to the Malays and natives of any of the States of Sabah and Sarawak in relation to government service, the issuance of permits and etc. Special position does not mean “special rights” instead it points to the state of preference or priority. And nowhere in Article 153 does it mention “bumiputera”, and when reading the sentence in a whole, the natives of any of the States of Sabah and Sarawak are on par. They are to be given EQUAL preference.

The Malays are not to lord over the natives nor the natives over the natives of Sabah and Sarawak. This is fundamental, as it relates to the terms and conditions for Sabah and Sarawak to form the federation of Malaysia as equal partners.

Who says only for Malays

PERKASA is also dead wrong in asserting their stand that Malays, and only Malays, should take priority. If it is the defender of Article 153, by right, PERKASA should also champion the cause for all natives of Sabah and Sarawak. Article 153(1) further states a third group of citizens, “the legitimate interests of other communities”.

This third group of citizens includes all other groups outside the sphere of Malay and natives of Sabah and Sarawak. Meaning, priority is given to Malays and natives of Sabah and Sarawak but where legitimate, other communities should not be deprived of civil service employment, business opportunities and education in accordance to to the provisions of the Article 153.

For PERKASA to merely champion the Malays, using Article 153 as their tool, and whitewashing the existence of the natives of Sabah and Sarawak and other communities; are they not supporting the depriving of equal opportunity as stated in Article 153 and thus, totally contradicting and nullifying the provisions of Article 153?

Article 153 protects that rights of all Malaysians, giving priority to Malays and natives of Sabah and Sarawak and where legitimately possible, other communities.

When Rev Eu stated that Article 153 is akin to “bullying” if it only protects the rights of one group, he was referring to the gap we now see when it comes to position of the “natives of any of the States of Sabah and Sarawak and the legitimate interests of other communities in accordance with the provisions of this Article” as stated in Article 153(1).

No one questioned the Agong either

There is also no question of questioning the authority of the Agong, nor is there any challenge to the Federal Constitution. Another point that irks our intelligence, is the claim by PERKASA, that if anyone questions Article 153, they are to be charged with sedition and a police case raised against them.

For what crime, may we ask? For the crime of speaking an opinion? For the crime of stating an observation? For the crime of being a Christian and addressing a need? What is the crime? Since when was thinking a crime? Since when was a citizen punished for voicing out their concerns?

“We demand the government use the Sedition Act on anyone who makes statements like this from now on and charge them in court,” Ibrahim told reporters a day ago.

The PERKASA chief was referring to a statement made on Saturday by National Evangelical Christian Fellowship (NECF) chairman Eu (right), who likened Article 153 to “bullying” for only protecting the rights of one group. Article 153 states that it is the King’s responsibility “to safeguard the special position of the Malays and natives of any of the States of Sabah and Sarawak and the legitimate interests of other communities in accordance with the provisions of this Article”.

If anything, PERKASA should be charged with the crime of threatening non-Malays and non-Muslims, in particular the Christians and Chinese, as well as insulting the intelligence of every right minded Malaysian.

Malaysia Chronicle

BERSIH 2.0 is Malaysiakini’s Newsmaker for 2011 by Readers’ Choice

December 28, 2011

BERSIH 2.0 is Malaysiakini’s Newsmaker for 2011 by Readers’ Choice

Over the past 10 years, Malaysiakini has without fail picked a newsmaker come December as we bring the curtain down on the year.

A newsmaker is defined as “someone whose actions make news headlines, who effects the course of public discourse and creates an impact in Malaysian politics, for better or worse”.

For 2011, we have decided to break from our decade-old tradition, and instead let Malaysiakini readers select their choice from a list of seven.

As many would have expected, it was really a two-horse race. Both contenders are nevertheless related – one is an individual who is widely seen as the face of a movement, while the other are the 50,000 people, many of whom faceless, who braved chemical-laced water and tear gas in the streets of Kuala Lumpur on that July day when the nation stood up and said ‘no’ to electoral fraud.

Yesterday, Malaysiakini readers named the Bersih movement as the top news of 2011. So it’s not surprising that the choice of newsmaker for this year is between Bersih coordinator Ambiga Sreenevasan and Bersih supporters, the Malaysians who supported the remarkable movement.

The award goes to…

And the newsmaker of 2011 is – it should be ‘are’ – the Bersih supporters! Of the 1,222 Malaysiakini readers who took part in the five-day survey, 491 picked Bersih supporters, while 305 opted for Ambiga.

‘First Lady’ Rosmah Mansor finished third with 181 votes, perhaps helped by the many allegations surrounding her, chief among them a RM24 million diamond ring.

This is the second year that the newsmaker award goes to a group of people and not an individual.

In 2008, Malaysiakini named ‘you’ as newsmakers for “thinking the unthinkable and daring to achieve it” in the wake of the political tsunami that swept the country.

The big question is: Will ‘you’ again be the newsmaker of the year in 2012?–

July 9, 2011-Bersih 2.0